Volume 81, Number 12 | August 18 - 24, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Joe Flood

Kyra Corradin (Juliet), James Waters (Romeo) and Katie Jeffries (Rosaline) hatch a plot — with your help.

Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers get a hilariously fresh makeover
Revamped script and audience voting create new romances

ROMEO AND JULIET: CHOOSE YOUR OWN ENDING
FringeNYC shows run through Aug. 28, 2pm-midnight weekdays and noon-midnight on weekends. Tickets: $15 in advance at FringeNYC.org or 866-468-7619; $18 at the door. Discount passes for multiple shows. For show dates, times and venue info, visit FringeNYC.org.

BY SAM SPOKONY

No matter how far indie theatre may have stretched the bounds of originality, it’s not often that you stumble upon a show that will actually follow the whims of the audience — or, at least, a majority of the audience.

At three points during Shakespeare’s epitomic love story, the action stops while Romeo polls the crowd: Should he go after Juliet? Should he fight or make peace? Should he complete a vital task or tell Mercutio to do it in his stead? The results of those wrenches thrown in the well-worn, familiar narrative gears are not just the alternate endings available (eight are possible) — they spawn a fresh new look at the entire performance; and it doesn’t hurt that the script itself has been rewritten as a hilarious comedy.

Most important to the “road not taken” perspective of this update on a classic is the introduction of Rosaline (Katie Jeffries) — she’s Romeo’s initial love interest in the original text, but Shakespeare never allows her to appear on stage (and she gets thrown by the wayside once Juliet comes around). Director Ann Fraistat (who is also a co-writer, along with her brother Shawn) changes the game by placing Rosaline at the forefront of the action from the start. Now, given both a face and a voice, she fights off Romeo’s romantic advances with an attitude that can only be called the anti-Juliet. The audience is hooked. Once our curiosity is piqued by this other love of Romeo’s, how can we choose to send him down that same old, sappy path of star-crossed love? Thus, the voting begins.

Rosaline is a cousin of Juliet (Kyra Corradin), and, therefore, also a Capulet — so those who choose to see Romeo try to win her heart will see similar feuding as in the original. But it is the constant antics of the plucky Montague trio of Romeo (James Waters), Mercutio (Jayme Bell) and Benvolio (Rob Mueller) that allow Fraistat’s adaptation to reach a comedic peak. From fake mustaches (along with the added pleasure of watching them all fall off) to verbal quips seemingly snatched from a frat party, these three create an sharp comic vibe that gives a quick nod to Elizabethan speech before throwing it for a modern loop (and they handle that balance with perfect poise). Bell is the most awkwardly brilliant, also tackling the role of Juliet’s nurse with the kind of reckless abandon no one can refuse.

No matter how you choose to watch the story unfold, one thing no voter can deny is the uninhibitedly farcical success of “Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending.” It’s destined to appeal to Shakespeare lovers and younger audiences alike, and this thoroughly exciting new look at the oldest of the old is already a classic in its own right.

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